Iraq MoH and GHD/EMPHNET Pioneer Appreciative Inquiry (AI) Initiative for Engaging Communities in Enhancing Immunization Coverage
As a community engagement strategy, Appreciative Inquiry (AI) for immunization aims to mobilize local communities towards improving health indicators. AI is designed to motivate and empower these communities to take the lead in achieving challenging goals. Before Iraq, AI was only implemented in Nepal where it proved to be successful in increasing vaccination coverage in remote and hard-to-reach areas.
Working closely with GHD/EMPHNET, the Iraq Ministry of Health (MoH) piloted the AI in two districts in Iraq to improve immunization coverage and successfully reach the 100% coverage targets in selected areas. As an innovative approach, AI ideally fits the Iraqi context where children in several security-compromised, underserved areas cannot be tracked for the vaccination schedule.
The initiative was implemented in Mahaweel in Babylon province and Al Hurr in Karbala. While engaging local authorities, NGOs, communities, and the private sector, the AI implementation was guided by the goal of ensuring full immunization for children in the afore-mentioned districts.
The implementation started with forming a team of capable trainers on AI-related material. To this end, a training of trainers (ToT) was conducted in Baghdad from August 6 and 8, 2018. This training was attended by 30 participants from the health promotion and Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) at the central level of the MoH. Later that month, these trainers facilitated workshops at the district level: Al Hur and Al Mahaweel. From these two districts, a total 100 participants attended the training workshops, representing the MoH, NGOs, and the local community.
The district-level workshops ensured the engagement of all stakeholders in the initiative, who formed a clear understanding of both the full immunization program and developed an overarching goal in line with national vision and strategy: ensuring 100% coverage at the district level in the selected provinces.
Within the collaborative effort among the community and the MoH, all children in the afore-mentioned locations were line-listed and monitored for vaccination. Then, a survey was conducted to ensure that all children are vaccinated. This survey was verified by the MoH.
A public ceremony was held to declare these two districts as fully immunized, celebrating the success of the AI initiative. In Karbala, the ceremony was held on July 23, 2019, and it was presided by the Director General of the Public Health Directorate Dr. Faris Lami. The ceremony in Babylon was held on the following day and was presided by Dr. Dr Osama Harbah, Representing the Director General of Health, Babylon Province.
In supporting the AI for immunization in Iraq, GHD/EMPHNET aimed to contribute to improved health for Iraqi children living in areas suffering from lack or inadequate health services. In fact, supporting the piloting of the AI in the country comes under GHD/EMPHNET’s continued collaboration with ministries of health in the region towards strengthening public health capacity in routine immunization and polio eradication, among other areas of interest.